The Resurrection of the Saints
Life and Death • Sermon • Submitted
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The Resurrection is Essential to Correct Doctrine
The Resurrection is Essential to Correct Doctrine
Isn’t it good to know that whatever happens in this life is as bad as it will ever get for followers of Christ? Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, there is hope beyond hope in our future.
Recap first sermon from series
Jesus really did rise from the dead, it’s the most important event in the history of the world, and its implications for believers are enormous.
When I was younger I didn’t understand the big deal about the resurrection; I believed the cross was the most important part of the life of Christ - but what I didn’t understand fully is that without the resurrection, the cross would’ve just been the end of a very bad day and week for Jesus.
This is week two of a four-part series dealing with all things resurrection which we’ve called Life and Death. If I do my job correctly, by the end of this series you should be able to answer the question, “What’s the big deal about the resurrection?” That’s the specific question we’re attempting to answer throughout this entire month. Last week on Resurrection Sunday we talked all about the historical reality of the resurrection of Christ and its transformational nature in our lives. If you missed it, you can find it on Youtube and catch up. This morning, as well as next week, we’ll be discussing the Resurrection of the Saints. That’s us! As bad as you may be, if you’re in Christ, Scripture refers to you as a saint. There will be a day when God will take these bodies of death and raise them to life. This sermon will hopefully serve as an extended introduction for the next two weeks, because before we can really get to the good stuff we have to do some ground work, which is exactly what Paul does in the middle section of 1 Cor. 15.
Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth who, as we discussed last week, had some doctrinal deficiencies. At the heart of their doctrinal problems was a flawed view of the resurrection. Admittedly, they believed in the resurrection of Christ, because many of them believed the gospel when Paul first preached it to them, and the resurrection of Christ is an essential part of the gospel. But because of the influence of pagan philosophy and teaching which was widely available in Corinth, they soon began to dilute the message of the gospel, and in so doing, they created a logical fallacy which Paul was forced to correct.
Let’s just begin this morning with the the first verse of our text and then expand upon it.
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
Here’s the crux of the issue with the resurrection at Corinth. They believed that Jesus was raised from the dead, but they didn’t believe that people like you and I were going to be raised from the dead. The idea of a human bodily resurrection from the dead was a ludicrous concept. You might think this would be easy to understand, but their beliefs were polluted by the teachings from the culture around them.
Many people, especially those with more of a Greek worldview, bought into this philosophy known as “dualism”. Dualism basically teaches that the spiritual is good and the physical is bad. In terms of what we’re talking about here, it can be boiled down to this: the spirit is good, but the physical body is bad. The body is corrupt and hopeless and full of sin, so it doesn’t really matter what you do with it because it’s dead and there’s no hope for it, so we might as well do whatever we want with it. Sleep with whoever you want, put whatever into the body you want to, etc. Many problems in Corinth stemmed from this misunderstanding. So when it came to the concept of the resurrection from the dead, the idea that God would raise up their physical bodies from the grave just sounded like utter nonsense. After they died, they were finally done with their bodies, so this talk of resurrection was ridiculous. Why? Because according to the philosophy of dualism the physical body is inherently bad and can’t be salvaged. It’s the spirit within the body that’s good and was supposed to live on. But Scripture as we’ll see teaches both truths - the spirit is eternal - but so is the glorified body - and there will be a time when soul and body (for those who have already died) will be rejoined. For those who have died in Christ up to this point, their souls are with God presently, while their bodies are in the ground. The idea of soul sleep or the ceasing of existence after death are both unbiblical.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Paul makes it clear that to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. And what better place could there be? Can we even imagine? Paul longed to be at home with the Lord, but he knew it was better if he was still on the earth. We know that we still exist after death through passages like this as well as in Rev 4 where John writes about those who’ve been martyred for their faith in Christ are awaiting the redemption of all things. Our souls aren’t sleeping, nor do they cease to exist.
There’s a temporary separation of soul and body - but there will be a time, at the return of Christ, when both soul and body will be rejoined and the physical body will be glorified and ready for the new earth - we’ll talk more about this specifically over the next two weeks as we talk about the resurrection body and the new heavens and the new earth.
But the church in Corinth didn’t believe at all that there would be a physical resurrection of the physical bodies of the saints of God. But what Paul does next is what he does best. He’s already gotten them to agree with what he has said in the first 11 verses of 1 Cor. 15. They already agreed that Jesus really did rise from the dead and that it was a real event in history, and there were all kinds of witnesses who could verify it. He’s going to show them their logical fallacy, and he’s going to do it brilliantly.
Here’s the fallacy, and you’ve probably already spotted it: They believed there was no bodily resurrection from the dead - AND YET - at the same time they also believed Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection from the dead. It’s a contradiction! It doesn’t make sense. If there’s no bodily resurrection from the dead than not even Jesus was raised from the dead - and if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, we’re in for a world of hurt and there’s no good news whatsoever. Listen to what Paul says:
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
If no one rises from the dead and experiences a bodily resurrection, than no one rises from the dead, and that includes Jesus. And if that were true that not even Jesus rose from the dead, Paul lists several negative implications.
1. The first is obvious and we’ve mentioned it. If the dead aren’t raised, then not even Christ has been raised.
2. If Christ hasn’t been raised - everything we’re doing here this morning is a waste of time and you should’ve slept in. This sermon is worthless if Jesus hasn’t been raised from the dead. If Jesus hasn’t been raised from the dead, then my whole life and ministry is a sham and I should be doing anything else.
3. If Christ hasn’t been raised - our faith is in vain and it doesn’t matter what we believe and it doesn’t matter what we do because we have no hope. All that stuff about faith in Hebrews 11? We should just throw it out because it’s meaningless.
4. If Christ hasn’t been raised - not only am I up here lying about and misrepresenting God, but you are too if you’ve ever told anyone that Jesus rose from the dead. We’re all guilty of lying about God if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and that sure doesn’t sound like a great spot to be in.
5. If Christ hasn’t been raised, our faith is futile and we’re still in our sins. Everything we do is meaningless. We’re all going to hell, because a dead savior can’t save anyone.
6. And finally, if Christ hasn’t been raised, not only are we all going to hell as the penalty for our sins, but so are everyone else who has lived and died in Christ before us.
Paul sums it up beautifully in verse 19 when he says that if we only have hope for this life that we’re to be most pitied. Can you start to see the problems for us if Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead? That would all be really bad news.
Jesus’ Resurrection Guarantees Our Own Resurrection
Jesus’ Resurrection Guarantees Our Own Resurrection
Let me give you some good news, though. The best news. JESUS HAS BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD! He’s alive! We have a living savior. And because we have a living savior, there’s hope for us - he’s able to help us. He’s able to rescue us. The letter to the Hebrews speaks about how Jesus was made human as in all ways as we are yet he didn’t sin - therefore - he’s able to help us in our time of need - and this is all because he’s alive and didn’t stay dead. A dead savior can’t help anyone! But here’s the best news which Paul is going to further elaborate: Jesus’ Resurrection guarantees our own resurrection.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Paul calls the resurrection of Christ the “firstfruits”, and unless you’re really familiar with the Old Testament, this term might be a little unfamiliar. It refers to a command from God in which the Israelites would take an initial portion of their harvest and offer it to the priest as an offering to God. The firstfruits were offered before the rest of the harvest - they signaled a further harvest to come which would come from the same crops. Jesus offered himself as the firstfruits. We will follow. It was similar to a down payment in the sense that it comes first at the beginning and then more will follow at a later time.
Paul then goes on to remind them of another essential part of the gospel and reminds them that sin entered the world through Adam, and because of sin, death entered the world. Paul, just like Jesus, taught that the account of Genesis was true. He viewed Adam as a real historical figure. Death is the result of sin. We are all descendants of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and as such, we’ve inherited a sin nature. Another way to say that is that we’ve inherited death because each one of us has sinned just like they sinned. There are none of us who are righteous. Death comes as a result of Adam’s sin, but life comes as a result from Christ’s death and resurrection.
If we’re identified with Adam, we’ll die. We are spiritually dead even though we’re physically alive. If we’re identified with Christ, however, we’re spiritually alive even though our bodies may be dying. The principle is clear: death comes from Adam and life comes from Christ. One issue we need to make sure we’re clear on is this is not teaching universalism, the heresy which says that everyone will be saved in the end. That teaching is refuted in plenty of other Scriptures which is why we can’t look at one verse in isolation from the rest of Scripture.
Paul is strictly teaching about descendants of Adam and descendants of Jesus. If you are a descendant of Adam, you will die. If you’re a descendant of Christ, you will live even though you die. You only become a descendant of Christ when you turn to and trust in Christ and you become a child of God - not when you believe he actually existed, but when you place your full faith in him and acknowledge that he is who he says he is, that you are who he says you are, and that he can do what he says he’ll do, and that he paid for your sins upon that cross and was raised from the dead. That he bore the full penalty for your sins and that because of his sacrifice you can be declared righteous in the sight of God. We confess that we’re sinners who can’t save ourselves, we turn from our sin to our savior - this is called repentance - and we fully trust in Jesus and his finished work. And repentance isn’t just a one-time action; it’s an everyday event in the life of Christ-followers. If we want to live, we have to switch families, and thanks be to God that He’s willing to adopt us into His family, and that’s exactly what he’s done if you’re in Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
The resurrection is real. Christ rose from the dead as the first fruits, and we will follow. He will return, and his return will culminate in the rest of the harvest, in other words our resurrection will follow suit. Paul seems to be combining a lot together in just a couple of sentences here. This will occur near the end of this earth, and death will be the last enemy to be destroyed through the resurrection, and absolutely everything, save for God the Father, will be placed under the feet of Christ the Son. It’s clear that the Son is still in subjection to the Father. This paves the way for the new heavens and the new earth. Paul’s not interested here in giving an exact chronology of the end - his only purpose in 1 Cor 15 is to show that Jesus really did rise from the dead, and because he rose from the dead, those in Christ will also rise from the dead. He wants his readers (and by extension us) to know that Jesus rose first, and he rose as the first of many.
Why is Paul so adamant that we understand not only Christ’s resurrection, but also our own?
It’s because he knows that the reality of our own resurrection will lead to bold living on earth.
The Reality of Our Resurrection Leads to Bold Living on Earth
The Reality of Our Resurrection Leads to Bold Living on Earth
Few individuals have lived as varied and adventurous lives as the apostle Paul. We talked briefly last week about the transformation which occured in his life as a result of his encounter with the risen Jesus. He went from persecuting followers of Jesus to producing followers of Jesus, and his life was far from easy and trouble-free. Just listen to how he described his ministry in his own words:
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Why would he risk all that? Why would he allow himself to go through all of those hardships? Why wouldn’t he just go back to tent-making and forget about all the ministry stuff? Paul put up with all of that because he knew the reality of the resurrection; he knew that he would ultimately be resurrected and that fact led to bold living on the earth.
Ministry isn’t easy and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. I’m about as far from Paul as you can get, but ministry hasn’t been a walk in the park for Amber and I either, or for any pastor we know. We’ve had people go from loving us to hating us from one Sunday to the next, and sometimes it didn’t even take that long. We have people who refuse to look at us when we’re in town. I’ve received some of the rudest letters you could imagine from people who call themselves Christians. We’ve been at the heart of several rumors. I’ve never been attacked physically yet, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been emotionally broken, beat, and scarred over the last 15 years. I’ve experienced more than one sleepless night while the church was going through a hard season. I don’t say any of this to get sympathy - I love ministry and would go through all of it again - but I’m willing to go through it because I know this isn’t the end. Amber’s willing to go through it because she knows this isn’t the end. God’s grace is sufficient for us just like it was for Paul - and because of the resurrection, we can go through difficulties in this live and live boldly for Christ.
Just last night - pastor friend of mine fired by his church because his wife and daughter deal with mental illness and depression. His elders told him they only deal with those issues because he’s an abusive husband and father which couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s already excited for what God has in the future for his family and is ready to keep preaching and to keep serving? Why? Because he’s bought into the truth of the resurrection and it’s given him the courage to live boldly for Christ while he’s on the earth. I could spend the rest of this message telling you of other difficulties which friends of mine in ministry have faced, but I think you get the point.
This isn’t just true for pastors - The resurrection gives all followers of Christ the courage to live boldly.
If there wasn’t a resurrection why risk anything? Why go hard? Listen to what Paul says, though I want to just read verse 29 first:
29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
Let me be perfectly clear upfront. I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God, but I have to be honest and let you know that I don’t have a clear understanding of what Paul is saying in verse 29. This is one of the hardest verses in all of Scripture to understand. And I’m not alone in that opinion. We just really have no clear way of knowing with 100% certainty exactly what Paul was talking about or why he included this verse. While I can’t exactly tell you what he is saying, I’m confident I can tell you what he’s not saying. This verse has been misunderstood by many, including the Mormon church, who use it to justify their practice of baptizing people for the dead - this is part of the reason they’re so good at genealogy - they want to know all of their ancestors so they can get baptized for them.
But nowhere does Paul or anyone else in Scripture teach the concept of vicarious baptism, meaning that you or I can be baptized for someone else, so I’m confident that’s not what Paul’s talking about. Every follower of Christ is expected to be baptized, but they are baptized personally, meaning it’s an individual decision. I’m not baptized for you and you’re not baptized for me. Whatever he’s talking about, it’s clear he doesn’t agree with the practice.
He’s just made the case that all things will be subjected to Christ, and then he takes a step back because it’s like in the middle of a completely different thought he thought of yet another reason why it was absurd that the Corinthian church didn’t believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead and he wanted to make sure he put it in the letter. He says that, and then without any elaboration whatsoever he moves on to the power of the resurrection in our daily lives, and thankfully, this at least is much easier to understand.
30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
If there is no resurrection from the dead, then we should just do whatever it is we want to do, because this life is all there is and nothing else matters. But there is a resurrection from the dead - it was inaugurated by Jesus, and it will culminate with all those in Christ.
I love the last two verses; Paul wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was. Their doctrine was bad because of the people they were listening to, and if they continued to believe bad doctrine, it would continue to lead to bad behavior, so Paul tells them to wake up from their drunken stupor and to stop sinning, and then he says that the very people they’ve been listening to have no knowledge of God and that they should have known better than to listen to them in the first place.
Let me close with this. This idea we refer to as Gnosticism was alive and well in the first century church, and it was this heresy which taught that certain people had this special knowledge about God that other people just didn’t have yet - and what Paul literally says here is that these people who have been deceiving the church are completely ignorant of God - not only do they not have special knowledge of God, quite the opposite! No, they are completely ignorant of him, and it should’ve been clear, hence why Paul said it was to their shame.
Paul’s not kidding when he quotes a poet about bad company ruining good morals. I say this more often than I’d like to from this stage, but it’s so important. Be very careful who you trust when it comes to the teaching of Scripture. Be very careful who you allow to have a voice in your life when it comes to the things of God. Be very careful with the “spiritual” books you choose to read. So many things can sound so good while they’re going down, but later, they just leave you with a bad taste in your mouth or worse can make you sick, and take my word for it - the gnosticism of the first century is still alive and well in the twenty-first century, and it’ll jump out at you from the most surprising places. There’s nothing new under the sun. Know the truth. Believe the truth. Cling to the truth. And don’t let anyone pollute the truth for you.